RAI board upholds 'fairness doctrine'

Pubcaster to refrain from pre-election political commentary

ROME -- The board of directors from state broadcaster RAI on Tuesday upheld its controversial new "fairness doctrine" that prohibits political-themed talk shows for the month leading up to elections.

The policy was supposed to go into effect starting Sunday, but the start was delayed so that the board could consider whether or not to reverse the doctrine. But it decided to let it stand, meaning that the three RAI channels should be void of political commentary as Italy heads toward national elections March 28-29.

At least one such program -- "Anno Zero," lead by Marco Travaglio, a noted critic of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- may still air. Travaglio said Tuesday he has no intention of respecting the new rule.

The policy has been controversial because it does not control political programming on other broadcasters, including the three channels run by Mediaset, the media giant Berlusconi controls.

RAI's plans have sparked criticism from several fronts: RAI employees have threatened to strike in protest of what they say is a kind of censorship, while political opposition figures complained that removing the programming from RAI would give an unfair advantage to members of Berlusconi's ruling coalition.